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Ombudsman asks SC to revisit doctrine of condonation

Admitting it hampers their investigations, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said Friday they have asked the Supreme Court to revisit a legal doctrine that removes administrative liability when a public official is reelected.
“In our pleading, we suggested the revisiting of the Aguinaldo doctrine. It hampers our investigation process on the administrative aspect (of a case),” she told reporters.
The doctrine, also called the doctrine of condonation, is named after Rodolfo Aguinaldo, a former governor of Cagayan province who bucked a Department of the Interior and Local Government order dismissing him.
The Supreme Court ruled in his favor, saying elected officials cannot be held administratively liable for offenses allegedly commited during a previous term because their constitutents have already forgiven, or condoned, the supposed offenses.
“If the administrative complaint is dismissed because there is a finding from the courts that there is an application of condonation doctrine, then we abandon the administrative case but we (still) proceed with the criminal aspect of the case. If it is the CA (that dismissed the case), we appeal it to the SC,” Morales said.
She said the doctrine was adopted by the courts in 1959 or 55 years ago.
“Given the fact that our present constitution, the 1987 Constitution is very emphatic on the drive against corruption, it calls for honesty among public officials, it calls for public accountability, then that policy should motivate the revisiting of the condonation doctrine because there is no law, no constitution that allows such doctrine, it was just based on a policy so it is only the Supreme Court which can reverse or modify it,” said Morales.
She also noted that Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has already filed a bill to make public officials liable for crimes committed during their past terms.
“I don't know which will come first, either the bill which will have to be passed into law or whether the Supreme Court will revisit the doctrine. We dont know,” she said.

'Don't fight preventive suspensions'
The Ombudsman earlier defended before the SC its authority to order the preventive suspension of Makati Mayor Junjun Binay over the allegedly overpriced construction of the Makati City Hall Building II.
The Court of Appeals, acting on a petition filed by Binay, has stopped the Ombudsman and the Department of Interior and Local Government from implementing the suspension order.
Morales said elected officials should not try to stop the preventive suspension against them.
“This preventive suspension thing should also work for the preventively suspended officer because chances are if we access these documents, which are the basis of the administrative complaint, the officer will be able to controvert the evidence. It works both ways. If you have nothing to hide, you are not supposed to arrest the powers of the Ombudsman to secure evidence in support of its complaint,” she said.
She reiterated that the preventive suspension is only a preventive measure and not a penalty.
Asked if the Binays are hiding behind the Aguinaldo doctrine, Morales replied: “I did not say that, baby.”— Amita Legaspi/JDS, GMA News